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Having It All Without Having Children

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http://www.fem2pt0.com/2013/08/02/having-it-all-without-having-children/

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The American birthrate is at a record low. What happens when having it all means not having children?

This piece was originally posted at the Times



One evening when she was 14 years old, laura scott was washing dishes
in the kitchen with her mother when she decided she didn’t want to have
a child. “You might change your mind,” said her mother, whom Scott
describes as “bone tired” from a life in which she “didn’t have any time
for herself.” Scott’s mom worked as a samplemaker for an upholstery
company; after making dinner for Scott and her brother, she’d park them
in front of the television and go down to the basement to spend her
evening cutting and sewing. That life was what “doing it all” meant to
Scott. “I learned you could—but did you want to?” she says. At 26, Scott
got married and waited for her mind to change. “I thought I would be
struck by a biological lightning bolt,” she recalls. “It never happened.
And I realized I was going to be fine.” As she says from her Tampa
office, where she works as a professional coach, writer and documentary
filmmaker, “My main motive not to have kids was that I loved my life the
way it was.”


Now 50, Scott is more than fine: she’s fulfilled. And she’s not
alone. The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American
history, which includes the fertility crash of the Great Depression.
From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the
fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that
childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up
to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years
maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s. Even before the
recession hit, in 2008, the proportion of women ages 40 to 44 who had
never given birth had grown by 80%, from 10% to 18%, since 1976, when a
new vanguard began to question the reproductive imperative. These
statistics may not have the heft of childlessness in some European
­countries—like Italy, where nearly one-­quarter of women never give
birth—but the rise is both dramatic and, in the scope of our history,
quite sudden.


The decision to have a child or not is a private one, but it takes
place, in America at least, in a culture that often equates womanhood
with motherhood. The birthrate may have fallen, but the baby-­product
industry is at a record high, an estimated $49 billion for 2013. Any
national discussion about the struggle to reconcile womanhood with
modernity tends to begin and end with one subject: parenting. Even
Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, a book focused on encouraging women’s
professional development, devotes a large chunk of its take-home advice
to balancing work and family, presuming that, like its author, ambitious
women will have both. It’s great that we’re in the midst of a ­cultural
conversation about the individual choices and structural ­barriers that
shape our lives. But if you’re a woman who’s not in the mommy trenches,
more often than not you’re excluded from the discussion.


Being sidelined doesn’t exempt childless women from being scolded. In
a December column in the New York Times headlined more ­babies, please,
Ross Douthat argued that the “retreat from child rearing is, at some
level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion”—­an indicator of
“decadence,” revealing “a spirit that privileges the present over the
future.” The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan V. Last has made the case in his
controversial book What to Expect When No One’s Expecting that the
selfishness of the childless American is responsible for no less than
the possible destruction of our economic future by reducing the number
of consumers and taxpayers.


With fertility treatment widely available, not to mention adoption,
even clinically infertile women have more options than ever to become
mothers, which increases the possibility that any woman who doesn’t will
be judged for her choice. “There’s more pressure on women to be
mothers, to fulfill that obligation, than I’ve ever seen,” says Amy
Richards, author of Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself.
“In the past we assumed it was out of a woman’s control” whether or not
she had a child. “Now we think it’s her choice, so we can blame her.”


time-cover-225x300.jpg


And it is chiefly her. Statisticians measure a woman’s childbearing
years as spanning from ages 15 to 44—a bracket that might change as
fertility protocols advance but that for now means it’s far easier to
label a woman of a certain age childless than a man, who might become a
first-time father at 65. Both culturally and academically,
“childlessness defaults to women, in all scholarship in the social
sciences,” says Pamela Smock, of the Population Studies Center at the
University of Michigan. That applies whether a woman’s married or
single, straight or gay. “Lesbian motherhood used to be an oxymoron, but
it’s a whole different ball game now,” says Nancy Mezey, author of New
Choices, New Families: How Lesbians Decide About Motherhood. “Now
there’s that pressure of the American cultural mind-set, that motherhood
mandate.”


Even so, women who choose not to become mothers are finding new paths
of acceptance. As their ranks rise—and as the community of adults
without kids diversifies in terms of race, education levels and
political affiliations—­so do positive attitudes about being able to
lead a fulfilling, childless life. Along the way, these women are
inventing a new female archetype, one for whom having it all doesn’t
mean having a baby.


Why Don’t You Have Kids?


The burden of justification tends to rest on ­childless women. We
rarely ask, “Why do you have kids?” Instead it’s “Why don’t you?” One
response I’ve heard repeated in dozens of interviews is “I keep waiting
for the biological clock to tick.” Another trait ­childless women
articulate in common is a girlhood lack of interest in dolls or playing
family pretend games with friends. Some can’t stand the noise of kids.
But many of these women have chosen to work with kids as teachers or
­counselors—­mothering the world, so to speak—or have close
relationships with friends’ and siblings’ ­children, sometimes housing
them for vacations or starting up their college funds. “I love children.
I just don’t need to own one” is a common refrain.


The designation for women who feel at a young age that they aren’t
mother material and then abide by that self-­knowledge is early
adopters. If there is a biological explanation for this impulse, or lack
of one, it has yet to be discovered. Some studies of maternal instinct
have shown that it clicks in once a woman gives birth, but whether our
nature leads us to conceive is another matter entirely. One researcher
has controversially suggested that childless women are just smarter. At
the London School of Economics, Satoshi Kanazawa has begun to present
scholarship asserting that the more intelligent women are, the less
likely they are to become mothers. Many peers in the field have not
embraced his findings: Kanazawa analyzed the U.K.’s National Child
Development Study, which followed a set of people for 50 years, and
found that high intelligence correlated with early—and
lifelong—­adoption of childlessness. He found that among girls in the
study, an increase of 15 IQ points decreased the odds of their becoming a
mother by 25%. When he added controls for economics and education, the
results were the same: childhood intelligence ­predicted childlessness.


Of course, higher IQ often leads to higher education and higher
opportunity costs. It’s women in that subset who are most often the ones
who opt out of parenthood and who prefer to call themselves child free.
“Childlessness is for someone who wants a child but doesn’t have one.
It’s a lack. I’m not lacking anything,” says Laura Carroll, author of
The Baby Matrix. Laura Kipnis, a cultural critic at Northwestern
University, likewise rejects defining women without kids as “-less”—as
if, she says, “your life isn’t going to be fulfilled without it, like
there’s a natural absence that once you fill it with a child, the world
makes sense.”


While highly educated white women continue to lead the childless
numbers, the 2010 Pew study reports that other groups are catching up.
Esmeralda Xochitl Flores, 34, who has written and performed a stage play
on Chicano childlessness, says that in her family, motherhood is never
“seen as an option. It’s more of a given.” Flores was born in California
to a Mexican mother and a Honduran father. Her inherited cultures, she
tells me, mandate that “family is your pride, your success.” In fact,
she notes, the whole point of the risk and upheaval of immigration is
for “the generations that continue.” To declare that motherhood is not
for you, as Flores has, can feel like committing treason, she says—a
tragedy to family members and friends, some of whom she says she doesn’t
see anymore. Flores, despite her adamantly child-free identity, happily
cohabits with a man and his 15-year-old daughter. She says the
arrangement works because of how he protects her choices; having a
­daughter in the house “shouldn’t be a reason for you to be held back
from things that matter to you,” he tells her, like late nights at the
nonprofit where she works in operations. “I still struggle with it
because I don’t want to be seen as a mom,” Flores admits. Still, she
says, it was a victory to fall in love with a Latino man who could
tolerate her position on childlessness—rare even in a college community
like Pomona, Calif.


A frustrated single life is how the 30% increase in childless black
women from 1994 to 2008 is explained by some academics. “One potential
theory is that they’re refusing to fall into a stereotype” of the
unmarried black mother, says Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, a sociologist at
the University of Massachusetts at ­Amherst who studies race and
gender, adding that in her extensive studies on fertility and family
formation, it’s a common refrain to hear high-­achieving black women
mourn what they say is a dearth of similarly educated black men.


But Jena Starkes, a Web designer, says, “This doesn’t have a damn
thing to do with me looking for a ‘good black man.’” Starkes, who shares
a Manhattan apartment with her mother and a few cats, says she couldn’t
get through the eHarmony dating filter until she lied on her
questionnaire about desiring kids. She says these days she can’t really
talk to her old friends, whose priorities have all shifted to the
“glamorous martyrdom” of child­ rearing, as she calls it. Ironically,
Starkes develops mommy e-commerce for a living. Motherhood, she says, is
now a massive consumer base: from organic onesies and Veggie Booty to
ad-heavy blogs on every aspect of maternal striving. “Before there was a
mommy industry, before there was product to move, you’d never hear how
it was the hardest job in the world,” she says. “If it’s the hardest job
in the world, I’m damn happy I don’t have to do it. You’re not supposed
to say that, but it’s true.”


For those who don’t hold the job, there are advantages. “I get to do
all sorts of things: buy an unnecessary beautiful object, plan trips
with our aging parents, sleep in, spend a day without speaking to a
single person, send care packages to nieces and nephews, enroll in
language classes, go out for drinks with a friend on the spur of the
moment,” says a happily partnered woman named Jenna Johnson, a Virginian
who lives in New York. “I know all of this would be possible with kids,
but it would certainly be more complicated. My plans—professionally,
daily, long-term, even just for ­vacation—are free from all the
contingencies that come with children.”


Great Expectations


Few women spend their girlhoods aspiring to an unencumbered life.
Daydreams often take the form of permanent attachments: monogamous
passion yielding beatific motherhood. Yet as we get older, we change
along with our economic, professional, social and romantic realities.
Philip Morgan, director of the Carolina Population Center, has said in
numerous interviews over the years that no one wants fewer than two
children. He’s referring to a raft of surveys that measure women’s
fertility intentions, in which young women are asked simply how many
children they’d like to have. (It’s not a question typically asked of
young men.) Of course, they’re not asked about professional opportunity
costs or lasting romantic love.


But those factors contribute to postponed ­childbearing, which Morgan
says is “the real story of fertility in the past 20 years. Women put
off motherhood because of work, education or the lack of a desired
partner, he says, and meanwhile “they develop lifestyles they enjoy.” As
Joyce Abma, a social scientist at the National Center for Health
Statistics, says, “The decision to have children is not an on-off switch
but more like a continuum.” One woman told me about reading a magazine
article when she was 40 on “the four stages of adulthood”: college,
career, house, kids. “I thought, My God, I’m stuck forever at No. 3,”
she said. She waited for panic to set in, but it never did.


The opportunity costs for an American woman who gets off the career
track could average as high as $1 million in lost salary, lost
promotions and so on, economist Bryan Caplan says. (Caplan, the author
of the book Selfish Reasons to Have More Children, argues that she
should go for it anyway.) Such concerns are nothing to dismiss,
especially in a down economy, whether women articulate that sacrifice or
not. But Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology at New York
University whose research focuses on work, gender and family life, says
postponement is far more complex than a résumé facing off against a
biological clock: “It’s what gives women time to build up their lives
and think about how they want to live. Other commitments take the place
of what motherhood might have meant.” Gerson says women are living in a
“damned if you do, damned if you don’t” social context in a country that
she believes emphasizes self-sufficiency equally alongside a deep
commitment to motherhood. The mix breeds impossible conflict. Without
independence, we’re failures. With it, we’re selfish.


The rise of attachment parenting, with its immersive demands, and the
sheer economic cost of raising a child—for a child born in 2011, an
average of $234,900 until age 18, according to the USDA, and $390,000 if
your household earns over $100,000—has made motherhood a formidable
prospect for some women. Sociologist Julia McQuillen sees a clear
relationship between the messages we hear about motherhood and an
increasing desire to opt out of it. “At a cultural level there’s the
constant advice given to women that you need to invest more in your
kids,” she says. “If we make motherhood unrealistic, why would we want
to do that job?”


Leah Clouse understands the amped-up demands of modern American
parenting firsthand, as a nanny and a kids’ art teacher. “It takes all
of you, and I don’t know that I want to give it all,” the 27-year-old
says. She and her husband Paul, who live in Knoxville, Tenn., married
four years ago and are not planning to raise a family. Leah commits her
time to working on her own creative projects and starting up a bakery;
Paul, 29, ­devotes ­himself to writing a blog and holds a day job in
customer service at a credit-card-processing company. They play a game
each week in which they look at their schedule and try to imagine how
they could fit a child into it, with their work and their involvement in
their church. “It’s insane already,” Leah says. “I don’t feel we can do
what we do and be great parents—and for me, the emphasis would be on
being great parents.”


Motherhood’s Ambient Roar


For 15 years at four different universities, demographer Stephanie
Bohon has asked students if they intend to have children. “They all
raise their hands,” she says, “and then I ask why—and no one has an
answer for me. That’s what a social imperative does.” The cultural noise
about motherhood has become such a constant din that many of us don’t
even notice it. But ask any woman in her 30s or 40s who hasn’t given
birth and she’ll likely tell you the ambient roar is oppressive.
Products from cleaning solutions to cars are targeted at mothers.
Magazines regularly offer features on the trials of parenting—Time’s own
are you mom enough? cover contributed to the viral tide—and genuflect
at gilded icons of celebrity motherhood, a sorority of which the Duchess
of Cambridge is just the latest member. (I counted 36 images of
Hollywood mothers and babies in a recent issue of Life & Style;
tabloids have made a staple out of baby-bump watches.)


Patricia O’Laughlin, a therapist in Los Angeles who specializes in
counseling women who are ambivalent about their choice, says the
identity that childless women developed as little girls around the
expectation of ­motherhood is the most painful stumbling block. Even the
decisive ones aren’t immune: Leah and Paul Clouse keep a baby box in
the closet with a pink tutu she once bought for an imaginary infant girl
and an article on raising nerdy children that he says spoke to him.
“It’s indulgent of a life I have to grieve,” Leah says. “If we decided
to have children, we’d have to grieve the life we currently have.”


Even if you are in the minority of women who don’t grow up
internalizing the idea that you are predestined for parenthood, the
mommy drone doesn’t quiet. “I resent that the entire culture of this
country is obsessed with kids,” Rachel Agee told me the day after her
40th birthday. “And social media is only an outlet to post pictures of
your children. I’ve got nothing to put on Facebook. At 40, that’s hard.”
(She has not yet bought the buzzed-about Facebook baby-blocker app to
censor progeny pics, but she says she’s tempted.) Agee graduated from a
Southern Bible college where she was taught that to be a godly woman,
one must procreate for the kingdom. “I just knew I couldn’t trade my
freedom for it,” she says. She moved to Nashville as a hopeful performer
and stopped going to church because it was so “oppressively
family-centric.” Nearly 30% of married households in the Nashville
metropolitan area are childless, but even in the secular, artier corners
of Music City, Agee wasn’t greeted by a culture that supported a life
without dependents. It used to be that one’s urban starter kit would
include a leather jacket, a guitar and a pack of cigarettes. Today
that’s been traded out for Lululemon maternity pants, a stroller and a
pack of diapers.


“I’ve always felt there was a cultural ­imperative—now there’s a
subcultural imperative,” says Kate O’Neill. She and her partner moved
from ­California to Nashville; she went there to write songs—though
she’s now one of the city’s top entrepreneurs—and he went there to
paint. Despite the high rate of childlessness, O’Neill says, it was hard
to find her way into a social world where “lately, motherhood has been
so absorbed into every possible aesthetic.” I heard similar observations
from women I interviewed in Boston, Austin and San Francisco.


Eleanore Wells, a market researcher in New York City, says that even
in her mid-50s, she finds judgment at every turn. “So many women take my
choice personally,” she says. Recently, she told me, a woman on the
subway inquired if she had children and then asked, aghast, “Who is
going to take care of you when you’re old?” Wells wanted to reply that
nursing homes are filled with parents, but she says she just smiled,
went home and packed her bags for an annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard
with friends. “When I was younger I found it more exhausting,” she says.
“Now I don’t give a s— what anyone thinks. It gets easier.”


Navigating the Choice


Laura scott runs the childless by choice documentary project, which
gathers stories of people who opt out of parenthood. “To make this
choice, you really have to be able to manage and navigate all
assumptions that are going to be made about you,” she says. “You have to
be able to challenge the status quo.”


“It’s toughest in your late 30s and early 40s,” Going Solo author
Eric Klinenberg says. That’s when social isolation tends to peak among
people without kids. “What people report everywhere is this experience
of watching friends just peel off into their small domestic worlds.
That’s the real stress point,” he says, not aging and dying alone, as
people fear—and ­strangers and ­family members alike tend to
­admonish—but the loneliness between when friends have babies and when
they become empty nesters. It has hit the Clouses earlier than
Klinenberg suggests, since their Southern Christian circle seems to have
already disappeared into parenthood. They say their lives have become
lonelier and narrower over the past few years. “You build strong
relationships, and then they change. It’s great for them, but it sucks
for you,” Clouse says. But they recently had their first “date”—roller
derby—with a childless couple at their church. They say it felt like a
massive relief.


As the childless numbers creep up, so do opportunities to make a
full, connected life with other non­parents. The community networking
site Meetup.com alone has about 20,000 members of child-free groups in
about 90 metropolitan areas—one for women in suburban New Jersey, one
for singles and couples in Chicago and so on. In a suburban Nashville
mall one Friday evening, a child-free group gathers around a long table
at Buffalo Wild Wings. Most of the 24 people here live in developments
nearby, and none of them have kids. Recent activities have included
zip-lining, canoeing and the monthly dinner the foodie couple in the
group organizes. “We can do anything we want, so why wouldn’t we?”
Andrea Reynolds says, cueing a round of clinking beer glasses. The one
thing they don’t do much of, her husband says, is talk about “the
no-kids thing” when they’re together. “It’s kind of the only place where
we don’t have to answer those questions,” he says.

http://www.fem2pt0.com/2013/08/02/having-it-all-without-having-children/

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I'm still reading the article (very interested BTW), but this, I can't agree.

The designation for women who feel at a young age that they aren’t
mother material and then abide by that self-­knowledge is early
adopters. If there is a biological explanation for this impulse, or lack
of one, it has yet to be discovered. Some studies of maternal instinct
have shown that it clicks in once a woman gives birth, but whether our
nature leads us to conceive is another matter entirely. One researcher
has controversially suggested that childless women are just smarter. At
the London School of Economics, Satoshi Kanazawa has begun to present
scholarship asserting that the more intelligent women are, the less
likely they are to become mothers. Many peers in the field have not
embraced his findings: Kanazawa analyzed the U.K.’s National Child
Development Study, which followed a set of people for 50 years, and
found that high intelligence correlated with early—and
lifelong—­adoption of childlessness. He found that among girls in the
study, an increase of 15 IQ points decreased the odds of their becoming a
mother by 25%. When he added controls for economics and education, the
results were the same: childhood intelligence ­predicted childlessness.

Wanting a baby doesn't make you less intelligent. I can't agree with this.

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I liked this article, I finished it yesterday, even the comments.

I want to say many things but not sure where to start. I need to clear my mind and tell you what I think.

What caught my attention was the fact that it focus (the article) so much on women, but the cover features a man too. I would like to know the POV of the men who are in the same situation or even on the fence. I know we are the ones that get pregnant, but the guys have a voice too.

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This reminds me of that Sex and The City episode where the girls went out to their old wild party girls baby shower. And they way they portrayed the the women with childern was exagerated ( but seem more spot on now than then) and the big question was who was living a better life. Does anyone remember that one? Let me see if I can find it.

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Of course i remember that episode. i remember Samantha had the "I'm not having a baby shower". lololol

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I'm still reading the article (very interested BTW), but this, I can't agree.

The designation for women who feel at a young age that they aren’t

mother material and then abide by that self-­knowledge is early

adopters. If there is a biological explanation for this impulse, or lack

of one, it has yet to be discovered. Some studies of maternal instinct

have shown that it clicks in once a woman gives birth, but whether our

nature leads us to conceive is another matter entirely. One researcher

has controversially suggested that childless women are just smarter. At

the London School of Economics, Satoshi Kanazawa has begun to present

scholarship asserting that the more intelligent women are, the less

likely they are to become mothers. Many peers in the field have not

embraced his findings: Kanazawa analyzed the U.K.’s National Child

Development Study, which followed a set of people for 50 years, and

found that high intelligence correlated with early—and

lifelong—­adoption of childlessness. He found that among girls in the

study, an increase of 15 IQ points decreased the odds of their becoming a

mother by 25%. When he added controls for economics and education, the

results were the same: childhood intelligence ­predicted childlessness.

Wanting a baby doesn't make you less intelligent. I can't agree with this.

That's not what they were saying. They meant that highly intelligent women were less likely to have a baby. It's likely that highly intelligent women who are also driven are more focused on their careers, possibly high-powered careers that make having and raising children difficult, especially since they would still be expected to bear the brunt of the child rearing, or at least manage the nanny. This doesn't mean that only unintelligent people have babies, and it doesn't meant that smart women smartly don't have babies. It just means that there's a correlation between intelligence and childbearing (not a causation), and that correlation more likely has to do with extrinsic factors.

This reminds me of that Sex and The City episode where the girls went out to their old wild party girls baby shower. And they way they portrayed the the women with childern was exagerated ( but seem more spot on now than then) and the big question was who was living a better life. Does anyone remember that one? Let me see if I can find it.

The one where the pregnant party girl gets up on the table and dances? Sober? Yes. I agree, exagerated. But the more I get to know suburban moms and am expected to talk like one - by "expected" I mean, a lot of sentences start with, "Don't you think..." - I am surprised by how real that shit is. Not everyone everywhere, obviously, but the whole baby-industrial-complex somehow thrives on it.

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I found this part especially saddening:

Eleanore Wells, a market researcher in New York City, says that even
in her mid-50s, she finds judgment at every turn. “So many women take my
choice personally,” she says.

On two points.

First, the guilt that women lay on each other is outrageous... especially the guilt they lay on women they love, but on strangers sometimes, too. I have a friend who is considering child-freeness. Her mom keeps telling her she'll regret it. What I think her mom means is I Want You To Make Me Some Grandbabies. But she also means that her children made her happy (a friggin' miracle because while this daughter is amazing, her son has been a huge, HUGE challenge). Sadly, she can't see that children don't make everyone happy. Or that it's possible to love children and still want to give them back at the end of the day. My friend is "auntie" to loads of her friends' kids, and that suits her really nicely. But the "You'll Regret It" refrain really sticks with her. (I told her that maybe she'll regret not having kids. Or maybe she'll have them and then regret that so much she wants to feed them to bears. You can't expect to live without regrets.)

Second, the judgment for women who've made a different choice is just... wow. Wow. I've had a few conversations about people who have pretty strong opinions about my decision to continue working. I don't let that conversation go much of anywhere, but I don't understand how my different choice affects your choice to stay home. I am still working, we figured out a way to make it work for us, and that is not a reflection of my opinion of stay-at-home-momness. I see so many women get defensive about their own choices when talking to someone who's made a different decision. Why are women so mean to each other?

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I'm still reading the article (very interested BTW), but this, I can't agree.

The designation for women who feel at a young age that they aren’t

mother material and then abide by that self-­knowledge is early

adopters. If there is a biological explanation for this impulse, or lack

of one, it has yet to be discovered. Some studies of maternal instinct

have shown that it clicks in once a woman gives birth, but whether our

nature leads us to conceive is another matter entirely. One researcher

has controversially suggested that childless women are just smarter. At

the London School of Economics, Satoshi Kanazawa has begun to present

scholarship asserting that the more intelligent women are, the less

likely they are to become mothers. Many peers in the field have not

embraced his findings: Kanazawa analyzed the U.K.’s National Child

Development Study, which followed a set of people for 50 years, and

found that high intelligence correlated with early—and

lifelong—­adoption of childlessness. He found that among girls in the

study, an increase of 15 IQ points decreased the odds of their becoming a

mother by 25%. When he added controls for economics and education, the

results were the same: childhood intelligence ­predicted childlessness.

Wanting a baby doesn't make you less intelligent. I can't agree with this.

That's not what they were saying. They meant that highly intelligent women were less likely to have a baby. It's likely that highly intelligent women who are also driven are more focused on their careers, possibly high-powered careers that make having and raising children difficult, especially since they would still be expected to bear the brunt of the child rearing, or at least manage the nanny. This doesn't mean that only unintelligent people have babies, and it doesn't meant that smart women smartly don't have babies. It just means that there's a correlation between intelligence and childbearing (not a causation), and that correlation more likely has to do with extrinsic factors.

>This reminds me of that Sex and The City episode where the girls went out to their old wild party girls baby shower. And they way they portrayed the the women with childern was exagerated ( but seem more spot on now than then) and the big question was who was living a better life. Does anyone remember that one? Let me see if I can find it.

The one where the pregnant party girl gets up on the table and dances? Sober? Yes. I agree, exagerated. But the more I get to know suburban moms and am expected to talk like one - by "expected" I mean, a lot of sentences start with, "Don't you think..." - I am surprised by how real that shit is. Not everyone everywhere, obviously, but the whole baby-industrial-complex somehow thrives on it.

I agree that that's not what they were saying. I think there other factors that contribute to whether people have children or not, and how early or late in life. But I agree that intelligence (and probably upbringing etc.) factors into people pursuing careers before children, or never having them at all.

I found this part especially saddening:

Eleanore Wells, a market researcher in New York City, says that even

in her mid-50s, she finds judgment at every turn. “So many women take my

choice personally,” she says.

On two points.

First, the guilt that women lay on each other is outrageous... especially the guilt they lay on women they love, but on strangers sometimes, too. I have a friend who is considering child-freeness. Her mom keeps telling her she'll regret it. What I think her mom means is I Want You To Make Me Some Grandbabies. But she also means that her children made her happy (a friggin' miracle because while this daughter is amazing, her son has been a huge, HUGE challenge). Sadly, she can't see that children don't make everyone happy. Or that it's possible to love children and still want to give them back at the end of the day. My friend is "auntie" to loads of her friends' kids, and that suits her really nicely. But the "You'll Regret It" refrain really sticks with her. (I told her that maybe she'll regret not having kids. Or maybe she'll have them and then regret that so much she wants to feed them to bears. You can't expect to live without regrets.)

Second, the judgment for women who've made a different choice is just... wow. Wow. I've had a few conversations about people who have pretty strong opinions about my decision to continue working. I don't let that conversation go much of anywhere, but I don't understand how my different choice affects your choice to stay home. I am still working, we figured out a way to make it work for us, and that is not a reflection of my opinion of stay-at-home-momness. I see so many women get defensive about their own choices when talking to someone who's made a different decision. Why are women so mean to each other?

Good points.

Guilt is laid on people. Even people with one child. I mentioned a bunch of times to people in my family after Amber was born that I truly felt I felt satisfied with one child. The comments I always got were so rude and judgmental. "You need to give her a sibling!", "When are you having another!" "She'll grow up to be a brat if she doesn't learn to share with a sibling!" Etc. It infuriates me now, because it's no one's business if/when/how many children a couple has except for that couples'. I felt really judged and shamed for feeling that way. Not to mention religious condemnation (I have been parts of circles of moms in the past who truly believe it's wrong to have no children or to limit the number you have) Add that to Nick's interest in having more children and we wound up with three. I'm not blaming those factors solely for me having more children but it did have some sort of effect. I feel like I didn't know any better and when I expressed interest in what *I* wanted it was met with alot of resistance. If I had been older I think I would have handled it far differently. We still even get comments from people asking when we're going to have another. When I say we're not having more people act like they don't believe us. Even people who know we took permanent precautions, it's like they don't believe we did that?

I wish I had heard "You should pursue what you're interested in, not what anyone else wants for you." or "If that's what makes you happy, that's OK and I support you."

The bottom line is that it's every individual's choice and women shouldn't ever feel judged and shamed for having no children or for having children. I don't get the obsession people have with trying to force others to do something they aren't comfortable or happy with.

I love that about your choices not affecting someone else's choices to do something different.

I've even felt it a little bit when I've mentioned something about the jobs I've applied for in the last couple of weeks. I've had people be judgmental about my stay at home status and I know I'll get it if I become a working mom too.

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Oh, the pressure is definitely there and the guilt and the judgement. Being in my late 30's I feel it everywhere. From parents, relatives, friends, coworkers, employers and the media... so many different expectations.

What's sad is that as of late, If someone asks I usually say I can't have any children and that usually shuts them up real quick. It's not exactly true but it saves me from the awkward conversations about the subject. Let them think what they want after that.

It's really no ones business and shouldn't matter at all whether a woman (or man) choses to have children or not but of course it's not the case. The choice is not selfish in anyway. It's a choice and it should be respected - it's not for everyone and we should remember for some there is no choice at all.

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You know what i found that shuts them up too? when you gloat about the fact that you didn't have more, because you know most of the people asking are the ones who have more than one.

I also found this to be true too, and Dee tell me if this has happened to you. People will pressure you to keep having so you can get a boy. I hate that. the same here, "but don't you want a girl". Actually no, I like boys. IF I were to have more kids i'd like a boy. But people are always wanting you to have what you don't have, and not in a good way. lol

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Sorry, it came out as if I was pissed, I'm not.

Thanks for clarifying.

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You know what i found that shuts them up too? when you gloat about the fact that you didn't have more, because you know most of the people asking are the ones who have more than one.

I also found this to be true too, and Dee tell me if this has happened to you. People will pressure you to keep having so you can get a boy. I hate that. the same here, "but don't you want a girl". Actually no, I like boys. IF I were to have more kids i'd like a boy. But people are always wanting you to have what you don't have, and not in a good way. lol

Yes, I hate people bugging us to have more because we have all girls. That happens all the time.

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Guilt is laid on people. Even people with one child. I mentioned a bunch of times to people in my family after Amber was born that I truly felt I felt satisfied with one child. The comments I always got were so rude and judgmental. "You need to give her a sibling!", "When are you having another!" "She'll grow up to be a brat if she doesn't learn to share with a sibling!" Etc. It infuriates me now, because it's no one's business if/when/how many children a couple has except for that couples'. I felt really judged and shamed for feeling that way. Not to mention religious condemnation (I have been parts of circles of moms in the past who truly believe it's wrong to have no children or to limit the number you have) Add that to Nick's interest in having more children and we wound up with three. I'm not blaming those factors solely for me having more children but it did have some sort of effect. I feel like I didn't know any better and when I expressed interest in what *I* wanted it was met with alot of resistance. If I had been older I think I would have handled it far differently. We still even get comments from people asking when we're going to have another. When I say we're not having more people act like they don't believe us. Even people who know we took permanent precautions, it's like they don't believe we did that?

I wish I had heard "You should pursue what you're interested in, not what anyone else wants for you." or "If that's what makes you happy, that's OK and I support you."

The bottom line is that it's every individual's choice and women shouldn't ever feel judged and shamed for having no children or for having children. I don't get the obsession people have with trying to force others to do something they aren't comfortable or happy with.

I love that about your choices not affecting someone else's choices to do something different.

I've even felt it a little bit when I've mentioned something about the jobs I've applied for in the last couple of weeks. I've had people be judgmental about my stay at home status and I know I'll get it if I become a working mom too.

It's amazing, isn't it?

I am so happy with one, and I know Andrew wants more, but I really like this one. (When my FIL told me I had to have a girl to put her in a dress, I looked at John and said, I could just put him in a dress. He did not laugh.) Seriously, though, many of the only children I know are about as well-adjusted as the not-only children I know. And I like him. What if I don't like the next one as much?

Oh, the pressure is definitely there and the guilt and the judgement. Being in my late 30's I feel it everywhere. From parents, relatives, friends, coworkers, employers and the media... so many different expectations.

What's sad is that as of late, If someone asks I usually say I can't have any children and that usually shuts them up real quick. It's not exactly true but it saves me from the awkward conversations about the subject. Let them think what they want after that.

It's really no ones business and shouldn't matter at all whether a woman (or man) choses to have children or not but of course it's not the case. The choice is not selfish in anyway. It's a choice and it should be respected - it's not for everyone and we should remember for some there is no choice at all.

This pisses me off to no end. It is never anyone's business, and I'm glad you shame them a little for butting their nose where it doesn't belong. Still, it's sad to me that people leave you alone if you say you can't, but they would probably push you if you said you didn't want to.

Of course, I'm so overly sensitive about the fact that it's not my business that I've only barely broached the subject with one of my dearest friends. Maybe if we rank more together I'd find a quiet moment over mojitos to ask... but it feels so personal. I mean, I'd never ask about her sex life... why would I ask about this?

You know what i found that shuts them up too? when you gloat about the fact that you didn't have more, because you know most of the people asking are the ones who have more than one.

I also found this to be true too, and Dee tell me if this has happened to you. People will pressure you to keep having so you can get a boy. I hate that. the same here, "but don't you want a girl". Actually no, I like boys. IF I were to have more kids i'd like a boy. But people are always wanting you to have what you don't have, and not in a good way. lol

Yes, I hate people bugging us to have more because we have all girls. That happens all the time.

As if the odds change if you persist. Next time someone gives you that, tell them about the Schwandt Family.

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/national_world&id=9199527

August 8, 2013 (ROCKFORD, Mich.) (WLS) -- A family that has 12 boys said it may try again- for a girl.

Kateri and Jay Schwandt of Rockford, Michigan, have 12 boys. They welcomed their latest addition, Tucker, on Sunday. While thrilled to have him join the family, Kateri said they tried to think pink during the pregnancy.

"We didn't know what he would be when he was first born. We don't find out. It's always a boy, but it's always a surprise," Kateri Schwandt said.

Kateri says she often feels like she's living in a locker room, and the couple still wants to try for a daughter.

(Copyright ©2013 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Oh Dana....that story about 12 boys! YIKES! I initially agreed to "try for a boy" with #2, and I really regret getting pressured into that mindset. It never quite sat well with me. The idea that we would have another because we have all girls feels insulting to me. I would feel that way if I were a kid and my parents kept having more to try for a different sex. It's as if the sex you are isn't good enough. Nick and I had some disagreements in the past about this. He'd keep saying "Well, I'd love to know what it's like to father a son." and I'd say "The same as fathering your daughters." He'd insist it would be different, but I really don't think it is. A lot of his POV on it is rooted in the patriarchy he was raised in and a poor relationship with his own father. He has a great relationship with our girls and I know if we did have a son he'd realize it wasn't any different.

I adore Mercedes to pieces, but it was really hard for me to bond with her initially. I had such overwhelming emotions when Amber was born and I just LOVED her so much. I was expecting to feel the same way when Sadie was born and it wasn't the same way. Of course I loved her, but there was so much guilt for me with trying to divide my time between the two. It was a really rough first year.

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I adore Mercedes to pieces, but it was really hard for me to bond with her initially. I had such overwhelming emotions when Amber was born and I just LOVED her so much. I was expecting to feel the same way when Sadie was born and it wasn't the same way. Of course I loved her, but there was so much guilt for me with trying to divide my time between the two. It was a really rough first year.

Thank you for saying this. I know it can be tough to admit, and people can be so judgmental about it. That's one of the things that makes me so defensive for people who are choosing to be childfree. They're told that they'll adore their child when they have one. But... maybe they won't. Maybe it will take a while, and maybe it will never happen. Sometimes, it just doesn't happen, and that doesn't make the mother a fundamentally bad person (though she's seen as such).

You are seriously screwed either way - if you know you wouldn't be happy with kids and so don't have them, if you (reluctantly) have kids and aren't absolutely delighted.

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Either way people call you selfish: if you don't want any, or even the ones who have kids are called selfish for the ones who don't have any.

I was just talking with Miguel about this yesterday, and I told him how some childfree persons become so nazi about it.

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